This essay investigates the social and linguistic construction of musaeum in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century culture. As a concept which expressed a pattern of activity transcending the strict confines of museum itself, the idea of musaeum was an apt metaphor for the encyclopaedic tendencies of the age. Mediating between public and private space, between the humanistic notion of collecting as a textual strategy and the social demands of prestige and display fulfilled by a collection, musaeum was an epistemological structure which encompassed a variety of ideas, images and institutions that were central to late Renaissance culture.

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